Joined: 16 Mar 2004
|Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:32 am Post subject: Nanoparticles and Cell Death
|Even though nanoparticles are already widely used, for example, in cosmetics and food packaging materials and exhaust emissions contain significant amounts of nanoparticles we still know little of their health consequences. As the use of nanoparticles in consumer products increases, their follow-up procedures and legislation are lagging behind.
The chemical directive REACH of the European Union does not even mention nanomaterials. Director General Harri Vainio from the Institute of Occupational Health has expressed his concern that nanoparticles might become the asbestos of the 2000s, and therefore a considerable threat to people's health.
The research teams of Professor Ilpo Vattulainen (Department of Physics, Tampere University of Technology) and academy researcher Emppu Salonen (Department of Applied Physics, Helsinki University of Technology) have together with Professor Pu-Chen Ke's (Clemson University, USA) team researched how carbon-based nanoparticles interact with cells. The results give rise to concern.
It emerged from the research that certain cell cultures are not affected from being exposed to fullerenes, i.e. nanoparticles that consist of spherical, ellipsoid, or cylindrical arrangement of carbon atoms. Cells are also not affected when exposed to gallic acid that is present in almost all plants and, for example, in tea. However, when fullerenes and gallic acid are present in the cell culture at the same time, they form structures that bind to the cell surface and cause cell death.
The research demonstrates how difficult it is to map out the health effects of nanoparticles. Even if a certain nanoparticle does not appear toxic, the interaction between this nanoparticle and other compounds in the human body may cause serious problems to cell functions. The number of possible combinations of nanoparticles and various biomolecules is immense. Thus, it is practically impossible to research them systematically.
The research on cell death caused by fullerenes and gallic acid has recently been published in the nanoscience journal Small [Salonen ym., Small 4, 1986-1992 (2008)].